Monday, July 16, 2007

Rapping to Destruction: Hip-hop's Damaging Portrayal of Women

Rapping to Destruction: Hip-hop’s Damaging Portrayal of Women
By: Chantelle Britton

Don Imus reminded the world that hip-hop rappers often insult and degrade women. His proclamation was made after he referred to some of the Rutgers University’s Women’s Basketball players as “nappy headed ho’s.” Imus’ comments have resurfaced the complex debate of hip-hop’s degradation of women, particularly black women. Political leaders, activists, celebrities and others described Imus’ statements as deplorable and unacceptable. The result: Imus was fired and branded as a bigot. Not only did Imus’ comments about the Rutgers team offend many, his words about hip-hop’s degredation of women also had a striking impact as politicians, celebrities, and activists discussed the topic.

A few years ago Essence magazine launched a campaign to “Take Back the Music,” which is designed to take a stand on hip-hop’s portrayal of black women. The campaign focuses on providing a platform for discussion on the issue; exploring the effects of hip-hop on children, particularly girls; and supporting artists who promote positivity in their music. This campaign began when a few students from Spellman College, a predominately African-American, all-female college, decided to protest a performance by rapper Nelly at their school’s charity function. Their protest was based on Nelly’s explicit lyrics and graphic sexual imagery in a song called “Tip Drill.”

Before Essence and Spellman students became involved in the debate, the late C. Delores Tucker, a US politician and Chair of the National Congress of Black Women, was an outspoken critic of rap music, primarily in the areas of exploitation of women and gangster rap. Her claim was that the message was breaking down the moral foundation of the African American community in addition to being misogynistic.

Countless others have argued for change in some sectors of hip-hop, particularly rap music. The critique exists and has existed for some time, but some believe that the destruction many sectors of hip-hop are causing is slow to change. Graphic sexuality on music videos and lyrics that encourage “pimpin and ho’in” are regular occurrences on some television programs and on radio stations across America. Songs like “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” (which won an Academy Award for best original song in 2006) glorify the “lifestyle” of being a pimp and pimpin’ ho’s.

Where does the blame lie? Various sectors of hip-hop dehumanize and demoralize women often in sexually violent and sexually explicit ways. However, the blame cannot only be directed at hip-hop artists or their record label executives. Some blame the women in music videos for furthering a stereotype of black women as being over-sexualized and promiscuous. “Video vixens,” as they are often referred to, argue that this is the best way for them to attain success in their careers as actresses or models. For others the exploitation of their sexuality is primarily about providing for their children.

The easiest solution for an individual is to not watch it, don’t buy it—ignore it, but will ignoring this problem that has a psychological hold on many of our young men and women make it go away? Also will ignoring it, make our communities a better place or rid the world of misogyny and sexism? Probably not, but in order for women to be respected, we must recognize the implications of the messages that are being produced through some sectors of hip-hop.

There may be hope for hip-hop

The culture of hip-hop has evolved tremendously since its origins in New York in the late 1960s to early 1970s. It encompasses a variety of elements including political activism, fashion, slang, music, art (primarily graffiti) and dancing (break-dancing). From Afrika Bambaataa (the Grandfather of hip-hop) to the current beats that can be heard on the airwaves across the country, the hip-hop persuasion has spread across continents. Its influence around the world is vast.

Because of its enormous influence over billions of listeners; hip-hop can be used as a tool for social and cultural change. And in some sectors, it has been. Consider the “Rock the Vote” campaigns and the use of hip-hop in recent elections. The culture of hip-hop can be diverted from misogynistic and exploitative of women. In fact, many rappers do not promote hatred or exploitation of women in their lyrics, but rather they promote their love and dedication for women as witnessed in their lyrics and in their videos. Such main stream and underground/alternative hip-hop rappers include Talib Kweli, Pharaoh Monach, Dead Prez, Common, and Lupe Fiasco.

Additionally, people are realizing the negative messages being delivered to youth and recognizing the exploitation of women through hip-hop. A poll of black Americans conducted by the Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices showed that 50% of respondents say that hip-hop is a negative force in American society. And, though music sales in all genres are down, rap sales have declined 21 percent from 2005 to 2006. Although these statistics are significant, it does give voice to some change. To remedy the solution of misogynistic outlets, we must start with a discussion. And, that discussion will lead to action.


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buy kamagra said...

The problem with that kind of musician. It is that they are selling a way to live that you have the money, cars and women as a possession (hr23). So you don't have to value those women.

4rx said...

I know that Hip Hop doesn't refer so good of women but it is important to highlight that they are selling a way of living and it is one of that characteristic.

Anonymous said...

This is the way for THEM to corrupt our children's minds by brainwashing them with sex, violence, misogyny and other negativity. This keeps their minds in a low place in order to make them unthinking materialistic pop culture chasing junkies. Some of them you can not reason with because they simply can't reason. This is not just a custom of these times, this is intentionally a form of mind control over our kids. They know kids and teens will copy their music idols, so they use these entertainers to corrupt their minds. Rap started out positive, then it evolved into reporting bad cop behavior and crime in the hoods of America, as it became mainstream THEY took over and focused on the violent side of rap know the kids would copy their idols. They intentionally brainwash them into self-destruction making the future of our community extremely dim and hopless.

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